KPD to test AMBER alert

The Kaua‘i Police Department will run its first MAILE AMBER Alert system test next week, in an effort to unify the state’s preparedness in the wake of a child abduction.

Short for Minor Abducted in Life-threatening Emergency and America’s Missing Broadcast Emergency Response, MAILE AMBER is named in memory of 6-year-old Maile Gilbert of Kailua and 9-year-old Amber Hagerman of Arlington, Texas.

Gilbert was kidnapped in 1985 from a party in Kailua. Though her killer-rapist was located several hours later, she had already been killed and buried.

Hagerman was raped and killed in 1996 after she was kidnapped riding her bicycle near her grandparent’s home.

The test, set for 11:45 a.m. Wednesday, will engage the state Civil Defense Emergency Alert System, Kaua‘i Administrator Mark B.L. Marshall, said.

The alert plan is a voluntary partnership between the four county police departments, emergency management agencies and broadcasters, tasked to notify the public when a child has been abducted. President Bush signed the AMBER Alert legislation in April 2003, making it a national, federally mandated program.

Each Hawai‘i county takes a turn conducting the test, and this time it’s Kaua‘i, Marshall said.

In the wake of the recovery of two missing teens in Missouri, whose successful return has been largely attributed to the AMBER alert response, the timing for a test couldn’t be better, Lt. Jon Takamura said.

“I know the success rate for returning a child safely with system is very good,” Takamura said, noting that residents should remember next week’s broadcast will just be a test. “We’re just going to make sure our EAS system is working properly.”

Charlene Takeno, director of the Missing Child Center of Hawai‘i, said because time is of the essence when it comes to child abduction, it’s critical to ensure that those in charge of the emergency response systems have ironed out any potential wrinkles.

“This is the first time for KPD to do this,” Takeno said. “Hawai‘i County recently found some mistakes in their response that they were able to correct after realizing them with the test.”

The test includes running ticker tape on TV and broadcast radio alerts. On O‘ahu, highway signs also are engaged, she said.

The Kaua‘i Civil Defense almost got to test out the system when a missing child scare happened earlier this year, Marhsall said.

A Kapa‘a Elementary that got on the wrong bus was initially reported missing last month, Acting Assistant Chief Roy Asher said.

KPD and the Kaua‘i Civil Defense prepared for an all-out MAILE AMBER Alert, which turned out to have a few minor kinks, Marshall said.

“We had to get instructions faxed to us from the state Civil Defense,” Marshall said, “but that only took a matter of minutes.”

Residents who witness a crime can help enhance the efficiency of MAILE AMBER alerts by noting the physical description of a child and abductor, as well as the suspect’s make, model and car license plate.

Parents should have access to recently taken photographs of their children as well as know what their children are wearing each day to ensure they can help law enforcement.

• Amanda C. Gregg, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or


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